For all the businesses lining West 19th Street in the Heights, the return of White Linen Night means they will have a chance to make up for thousands of dollars lost in revenue the last two years during the COVID-19 pandemic.
And though it is not going to be exactly the same, the event – which is typically hosted on the first Saturday of August each year – is still a welcome sight to business owners along the Heights’ main street as they continue to seek additional revenue in a post COVID-19 world.
“I’m looking forward to it this year,” said Chrissie Ramirez, owner of Casa Ramirez FOLKArt at 241 W. 19th St. “I think it should be a good turnout…it’s going to be a nice boon to everybody here. It’s a great opportunity for brand new businesses as well as existing businesses like us.”
The event will not have barricades on 19th Street between Ashland and Yale streets as per usual, according to event organizer Sara Jackson, though multiple area businesses will host White Linen-themed events.
But several business owners said it is still a boon to have the night back in any form. It was created in 2006 as an effort to bring attention to small and independently-owned businesses, and drew more than 50,000 attendees during the last in-person event three years ago.
“August is a slow month for retailers and this gives people a reason to come out and shop,” said Kristal Kirksey, owner of Jubilee in the Heights at 345 W. 19th St. “White Linen has really put the Heights on the map and we always get new customers who have never been to 19th Street. Even if they don’t shop that night, they remember us and come back.”
It has been particularly slow the last two years, business owners said, with no in-person events having been held along 19th Street since 2019 because of the pandemic – though some still held individual events last year.
For We Olive & Wine Bar situated at 249 W. 19th St., owner Luis Rabo said WLN brings in three times the revenue and usually stands as one of the wine bar’s top five revenue days of the year while bringing in new customers who he said didn’t know the wine bar was there until visiting during White Linen Night. That, he said, was the most detrimental effect to We Olive over the last two years.
“We obviously didn't get that incremental revenue bump that a typical WLN would give us,” he said. ”However, most importantly, our business didn't get the folks that would come back to visit us after WLN. …We're looking forward to introducing ourselves to a bunch of new clientele that may have never visited us before.”
Harold’s Tap Room and Restaurant, 350 W. 19th St., was also down 280 percent in sales revenue on the night White Linen Night would typically occur in 2021 compared to the $25,000 it brought in during the last in-person event in 2019, according to owner Alli Jarrett. The restaurant will have a musical performance by the Zydeco Dots and face painting, among other festivities, during White Linen Night in efforts to help bring in customers and recoup revenue that has been lost over the last several years.
“We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to have a solid revenue night (on Aug. 6),” Jarrett said. “We need it with everything going on.”
Kirksey said Jubilee typically doubles or triples their sales on White Linen Night compared to typical Saturdays, and sees hundreds of customers come into the store during the course of the event. Ramirez also said that even if a person was not attending WLN, they would frequent 19th Street businesses for themed clothing or catering.
“Losing White Linen Night the past few years has hurt, we lost sales that night and also white clothing and house party decor and party supplies leading up to the event,” Kirksey said. “The pandemic obviously drastically hurt in person businesses like Jubilee, but thanks to our wonderful Heights neighbors, we made it through.”
Those neighbors, Rabo said, are the key to Heights-area businesses continuing to recover from the financial losses incurred during the last two years without the event.
And the event, business owners said, will remind neighbors and visitors alike that small businesses like those on 19th Street are part of what makes this part of the city unique and different.
“If a visitor to WLN could buy just one thing from a choice of dozens of local shop owners on 19th Street, it would help so much with our recovery,” Rabo said.